The Didactics and Development Team (DDT)

The didactics and development team, DDT for short, is responsible for the development of the International Fire Academy's operational procedures and defines the didactic principles. It is made up of experienced firefighters and experts in the construction and operation of traffic tunnels.

First learn, then teach

The tactical principle of "extinguish in order to rescue" is taken for granted today. However, it took many years to develop it. In 2001, when the Intercantonal Fire Service Training Centre first dealt with the issue of tunnels, there was still general confusion among the fire services as, how to proceed with tunnel fires. That's why the DDT was established, which quickly recognized: Before we can develop procedures, we must first learn for ourselves. For this purpose, the DDT members first visited those fire services that had gained experience with tunnel fires, such as the Emergency Service Gotthard. Their firefighters reported that the working conditions on the upstream side (for example in the case of the large truck fire on October 24, 2001) were not as bad as pictures of the location of the operation suggested. The first important finding was: The fire services are not helpless; they can do something.

Understand how tunnels work and operate

In order to be able to develop the specific operational experience of individual fire services into a general principle, the DDT members had to learn to understand tunnel structures, their operation and the possible processes caused by an incident. How quickly can fire and smoke spread? How do different types of ventilation work? How can lateral accesses, cross passages and safety tunnels be used tactically? How do tunnel users behave in the event of a fire? In order to find answers, specialist literature and reports on fire tests were evaluated from the perspective of the fire services and countless discussions were conducted with tunnel designers, ventilation experts and tunnel managers. The fact that the Swiss Federal Office of Roads (ASTRA) participated in the DDT from the very beginning and opened the doors to the complex world of road tunnels for firefighters was very helpful. For example, in 2007, DDT members were able to take part in tests on the new smoke extraction systems in the Gotthard road tunnel.

“Go in and extinguish!”

It took many months of learning and discussions to develop a clear idea of how to best deal with fire in road tunnels. In 2001, there was still great uncertainty as to whether fire services could even have an effect on tunnel fires. In 2007, the DDT was convinced: The quicker the fire is extinguished, the faster the smoke formation is stopped and the sooner the conditions for self and external rescue are improved. So: Don't hesitate, but drive in quickly on the upstream side and extinguish the fire as soon as possible!

Clarify together what no one alone knows

In addition to the tactical principles, countless details still have to be clarified, such as whether, when, and how rail vehicles are to be secured with wedges by the fire services. This is a typical example of questions to which there may be very different answers depending on the perspective. For this reason, the DDT has stepped up its efforts to develop the operational procedures for railway tunnels with representatives of railway companies. In addition, the DDT is in constant communication with the training department of the International Fire Academy. On the one hand, the Procedure must be able to be practically conveyed and accepted by the students. On the other hand, many new ideas emerge from the training, such as the use of marking lights.

A body that never votes

In principle, the DDT never votes. For example, what was the use of a tactical principle that - in extreme cases - 51% considered correct and 49% incorrect? So the DDT always debates until a solution acceptable to all members is found. Because it is not only the operational needs but also aspects such as for example, to consider the practical implementation, the training required and the costs. From the beginning, the DDT strived to be able to handle all operational tasks without specialised vehicles or equipment.

Didactic principle: “Allow for learning!"

There is seldom a need to discuss the most important didactic principle: “Allow for learning!”. The DDT consequently designed the tunnel training facilities of the International Fire Academy as learning and experience worlds, in which the course participants can experience for themselves under realistic conditions, what challenges they are faced with during UTS operations and how they can master them. And: Those who are to learn must also be allowed to make mistakes. That is why the DDT has always advocated practice conditions under which simple errors cannot have serious consequences. 

The members of the DDT

The members of the DDT are appointed to this body by the management of the International Fire Academy. Currently (as of 16.12.2019), the following people are active members:
Brauner Christian, International Fire Academy, Head of the DDT
Bänziger Jürg, Fire service inspector Canton Schaffhausen
Berchtold Daniel , Deputy CEO, International Fire Academy
Dietz Werner , Former fire service inspector Canton of Basel-Stadt
Fink Thomas, Head of the Academy for emergency response, Baden-Württemberg State Fire Service School
Graf Vinzenz, Fire service inspector Canton Lucerne
Grenacher Markus, Fire service inspector Canton Solothurn
Helfer Martin, Fire service inspector Canton Fribourg
Hofmann Roald, Administrative Staff for Security / Risk management, Rhaetian Railway Company
Kummer Urs, CEO, International Fire Academy
Luginbühl Peter, Expert railway facilities, Canton of Bern
Mariéthod Bernard, Specialist Operative Safety, Federal Office of Roads
Megert René, Head of Operations, Swiss Southeast Rail company
Mundwiler Hans, Former Fire Chief of the professional fire service Zurich
Schneider Christoph, Department of Safety, Federal Office of Transport
Spichale Martin, Head of Intervention Area Middle, Swiss Federal Railways
Stampfli Werner, Fire service inspector Canton Basel-Landschaft
Wernli Marianne, Head of Education, International Fire Academy